Lysandra Ohrstrom is a Brooklyn-based freelance journalist who covers the U.S. and the Middle East.
She just penned this article for Vanity Fair. Here are some choice excerpts;
“Ivanka Trump was my best friend growing up.
We first met when I joined her seventh-grade class at Chapin, an all-girls school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that had a reputation for attracting a blue blood, feminine, but ambitious cohort of young girls, not unlike its most famous alumnus, Jackie O.
Ivanka and I hung out occasionally at first. I got a last-minute invite to her 13th birthday party, where about 15 of us caravanned to Atlantic City in a trio of limos and camped out in the penthouse suite of the Taj Mahal for the weekend under the supervision of two wary members of her dad’s security team. She called me to pose in a photo spread for Sassy magazine because none of her usual group was available. I remember swinging by her dad’s office at Trump Tower so she could borrow his credit card to go shopping. When we were not in our uniforms, the look was baby tees and Carpenters from Urban Outfitters; floral, boudoir numbers from Betsey Johnson for the interschool Goddard Gaieties dances, or the sixth floor of Barneys if we were splurging.
Mr. Trump always handed over the credit card after a little feigned outrage about how much money he was giving her mother. He would barely acknowledge me except to ask if Ivanka was the prettiest or the most popular girl in our grade….
Though he never remembered my name, he seemed to have a photographic memory for changes in my body…. he’d usually congratulate me if I’d lost weight.
We remained [best friends] for more than a decade, more sisters than best friends. Sure, she loved to talk about herself and was shamelessly vain, but she was also fun, loyal, and let’s face it, pretty exciting.
In 2009, shortly after I was one of two maids of honor in Ivanka’s wedding, our friendship finally broke under the weight of our differences.
I’ve watched as Ivanka has laid waste to the image she worked so hard to build.
In private, I’ve had countless conversations with friends who also grew up with Ivanka about how appalled we are that she didn’t publicly oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, or any of her dad’s especially repugnant policies. But in public, we’ve stayed silent because that’s what we are taught to do.
In reality, I was afraid I’d lose friends and get skewered from all sides as a hypocritical, privileged elitist looking to capitalize on her Trump connection. My disgust with the Trumps was outweighed by my fear of being dragged through the mud, dismissed by the family as a nasty loser. Even now, as self-proclaimed former friends vow that Ivanka can never show her face in Manhattan again, few of these detractors are quoted by name in the many takes about her future.
After I voted early against her dad, I sat down at my computer and began to write about my friendship with Ivanka with no eye toward publication.
But the more I wrote, the surer I became that I did not owe her my silence.
As she’s touted the achievements the Trump administration has made for the middle class while not-so-covertly pursuing a massive wealth transfer to corporate America, I’ve been reminded of a phone call we had in our mid-20s. Ivanka always solicited book suggestions from me, and I had recently recommended Empire Falls, Richard Russo’s 2001 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel about the life of a diner manager in a working-class community in Maine.
‘Ly, why would you tell me to read a book about fucking poor people? What part of you thinks I would be interested in this?’
I thought about how Ivanka used to point out inconsistencies between a character’s profession and their lifestyle when we went to the movies.
‘Since when can a teacher afford a BMW?’
Why is a police officer living in a house like that?’
One of the earliest memories I have of Ivanka from before we were friends is when she blamed a fart on a classmate. Some time later, she goaded me and a few other girls into flashing our breasts out the window of our classroom in what has since been labelled the “flashing the hot dog man” incident in Chapin lore. Ivanka had basically been the ringleader, but she pleaded her innocence to the headmistress and got off scot-free. The rest of us were suspended.
While Ivanka was laying the foundation for her conquest of Manhattan, I was experiencing a new reality in Lebanon as it was rocked by a string of political assassinations and bombings and a decimating war with Israel. The gulf between us became increasingly apparent. During my first two-year stint in Beirut, Ivanka regularly emailed me messages like,
‘When are you getting your ass back to NYC? You’re going to be replaced.’
I remember her being the only person I knew who didn’t ask me what the war was like. By the time I did return home, she had started dating Jared Kushner, whose family was Orthodox Jewish, and my pro-Palestinian stance began to chafe. Since 2007, I’ve worn a necklace with my name written in Arabic, and Ivanka grew increasingly irritated by it. Sometimes, she would randomly say, “I hate that thing.” Then one night in the middle of dinner, she glanced at the necklace and said,
‘How does your Jewish boyfriend feel when you are having sex and that necklace hits him in the face? How can you wear that thing? It just screams, terrorist.’
One time, we were driving to Manhattan from Bedminster, and I think we were having some sort of disagreement about affordable housing in Manhattan. I distinctly remember Ivanka saying something along the lines of,
‘Ly, I can’t talk about this stuff with you anymore because you’ve really turned into a Marxist.’
The months between her engagement and wedding to Jared were a flurry of activity in which I was honored to participate. When I started a new job in a different field the day after their wedding, however, I expected my best friend to ask how it was going. After what could have been a few days or weeks, I remember sending her a text that said something like,
‘Hey, I started a new job the day after your wedding, and you haven’t asked me a single question about it.’
I don’t remember her exact reply, but it was something along the lines of,
‘Ly, I’m too busy for this shit.’
That was more or less the end.
For the past four years I have tried to tune out the conversation that dominated international media, but it is nearly impossible to ignore when the person who used to pluck ingrown hairs from your bikini line suddenly appoints herself to the role of unelected public official and begins to torch democracy.
…aligning herself with her dad’s banana republic-style administration made no sense to me, until my friend suggested that Ivanka took her kids to the rally to show them that they are American royalty. This explanation seemed most plausible.
What is more royal than presiding over subjects that you disdain?
I’ve been a good Wasp and kept quiet until now, even as I’ve grown increasingly repulsed by Ivanka’s ability to aid and abet her father. I’ve been comforted by the certainty that the backlash from those whose respect she craves most must sting. Still, I miss my old friend.
…the damage the Trump family has done is unforgivable, even if perpetrated by my childhood best friend—I expect Ivanka will find a soft landing in Palm Beach instead, where casual white supremacy is de rigueur and most misdeeds are forgiven if you have enough money.
Whether Ivanka is able to rehab her stained image or not, I hope she wasn’t able to drown out the applause of the city she once aspired to rule, cheering and celebrating her political downfall.
I was with them, crying with relief, matched only by the regret and shame I feel for not holding my former friend to account sooner.”
(Photos, Lysandra Ohrstrom; via Vanity Fair)